The creations of the luxury glassware firm can be found on the tables of royals and heads of state, but they’re well within reach of the casual shopper.
Kagami Crystal Co., Ltd was established in Kamata in southern Tokyo back in 1934. It was Japan’s first crystal glass factory and was founded by Kozo Kagami after returning from Germany, where he studied crystal glassware processing techniques.
Now, more than 80 years later, the company is still going strong and you can experience Kagami’s trademark detail-oriented crystal glassware in Tokyo at a cozy shop located just five minutes’ walk from Ginza station. As soon as you set foot inside, you will be struck by the stunningly beautiful items on display.
Kagami Crystal’s president, Hidetoshi Mochizuki, who visits the Ginza store every week, proudly points out to Weekender that some of their glassware products are “ordered by the Imperial Household Agency for official receptions with foreign dignitaries.”
An entire side of the store is lined with beautiful transparent whisky and wine glasses. Mochizuki points out one in particular—a dignified whisky glass whose facets are reminiscent of a delicately cut precious stone. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered this glass with an inscription for John F. Kerry,” the 68th US Secretary of State.
The other side of the store is dedicated to the colorful “Edo Kiriko” cut glasses, a truly original form of Japanese craftwork that dates back more than 180 years to the work of master glassman Kyubei Kagaya. Kagaya initiated the art form when he started experimenting with cutting various patterns into the glass, but it was the influx of Western glass cutting techniques and styles that helped Edo Kiriko flourish into the unique art form that it is today. It is instantly recognizable for its distinctive use of patterns and designs that can often be found on traditional kimono: abstract geometrical forms such as the kagome basket-weave pattern or the arrow-pointed yarai, as well as chrysanthemum flowers, hemp leaves, or fish, all delicately rendered in a variety of colored glass.
Although the history of this art form dates back nearly two centuries, it has played a role in more recent diplomatic affairs as well. Mochizuki points out two small sake glasses, in blue and red, and says “Prime Minister Abe presented this pair to President Obama when he was in Japan [last year].”
Kagami Crystal’s reputation and esteemed customer base are impressive, but this should come as no surprise: the company has been earning accolades since its inception. Kozo Kagami won a silver for its products at the 1937 Paris World Expo, a medal of honor at the 1939 New York World Expo and the grand prize at the 1958 Brussels World Expo. Since then, Kagami Crystal has received many more special commissions from the likes of the Imperial Family, the Japanese government, and Japanese embassies and consulates all around the world for official receptions. Kagami Crystal glassware can be found in embassies and consulates in more than 250 countries around the world.
Thanks to these honors and this worldwide recognition, the company has developed a strong and loyal following, both international and domestic, for its advanced glass-making skills and techniques like hand glass-blowing, manual cutting and engraving. The company takes pride in its reputation for producing “the best quality crystal in Japan,” and as Mochizuki explains, this legacy is something that the brand will continue to refine in the decades to come.
“Our highly skilled craftsmen combine technical skills and artistic passion to produce the finest and most detailed works of crystal glass art. Based on the concept of monozukuri no kokoro, or passion for manufacturing excellence, we intend to continue our relentless efforts to enhance our technologies and skills, and commit ourselves to offering products that express high standards of technique as well as creativity.”
Just because the company’s client list includes Japanese royalty and foreign heads of state doesn’t mean that this impeccable crystalware is only for the rich and famous. A visit to the store in Ginza will let you get up close and personal with the various glasses, liquor decanters, perfume containers, decorative vases and other bespoke goods, and will let you see for yourself the quality and tradition that have gone into making Kagami a household name in houses around the world. The shop also specializes in engraving, so you can even get your own family emblem (if you’re lucky enough to have one!) engraved onto a set of timeless pieces. They’d make a perfect gift for anyone you’d like to impress, be they a foreign dignitary or your grandparents back home.
Address: 104-0061, Tokyo, Chuo-ku, Ginza 6-2-1 Daiwa Building
Featured image: This decanter and set of six glasses, exquisitely rendered in clear and blue crystal, are a testament to the Kagami craftmen’s skill, and certain to turn heads at your next event.